FC Barcelona (CHAMPIONS, 85pts) vs Real Sociedad (4th, 62pts)
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 35
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ronald Araujo, Pedri, Gavi (out)
Real Sociedad Outs & Doubts: Brais Méndez, Umar Sadiq, Martín Merquelanz (out)
Date/Time: Saturday, May 20, 2023, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Sunday)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Javier Alberola Rojas
VAR: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), Viaplay Sports 2 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Not Available (Canada, Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), DAZN (Spain), others
Following a memorable Derby victory over Espanyol and a week filled with parades and celebratory dinners, the newly-crowned champions of La Liga return to action as Barcelona welcome Real Sociedad to the Greatest Stadium on Earth on Saturday night.
The four-year wait for league glory is finally over, and the cherry on top of a dream week comes after the match when captain Sergio Busquets gets to lift the trophy in front of a packed house.
The 90 minutes that will precede the trophy ceremony are a mere formality, and Barça’s priority in this one is to avoid injuries and give minutes to fringe players who haven’t been used a lot this season.
As much as I’d love to urge the team to put on a great show in their first game as champions, I have to be realistic and not ask or expect too much of them. This has been a long, tough season with so many injuries and a few difficult times, and the weight of pressure and expectations has finally been lifted off the squad’s collective shoulders.
They spent the week on parades and celebratory dinners, and Xavi Hernández will be giving a night off to Ronald Araujo and Pedri, who have small injury issues and don’t need to be forced with the league wrapped up. Gavi is also out through suspension, and a couple of other starters will be rested.
There are still things to play for at the individual level: Marc-André ter Stegen wants to win the Zamora Trophy as the goalkeeper with the best goals-to-games ratio, and the German is on pace for the lowest mark of all-time in a truly remarkable season. Robert Lewandowski wants to mark his debut campaign with the Pichichi Trophy as top scorer in the league, and will be hungry to find the net in this one.
But for the team as a whole, it’s hard to see them really dialing up the intensity against a Real Sociedad team that badly needs a result from this one: a win would pretty much guarantee a Top 4 finish for the Basque side, but anything other than three points could complicate their chances going into the final three games.
For the visitors, this is a really important match. For the hosts, it’s about the celebration after. The results no longer matter, but it would still be nice to see the fringe players making the best of their opportunity and the team give the fans a good show. I wouldn’t count on it, however, and I won’t be upset if the performance isn’t great.
For the first time in four years, it’s trophy night at Camp Nou. Nothing else matters.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, De Jong; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Ferran
Real Sociedad (4-2-3-1): Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Aihen; Zubimendi, Merino; Kubo, Silva, Oyarzabal; Sorloth
Barça have nothing to play for, and Sociedad need a win. Barça have two key starters out and a few others rested, and Sociedad are fully healthy. Barça spent a whole week celebrating, and Sociedad are rested and very well-coached. I can’t see anything other than a loss in this one: 2-1 to the visitors, and that’s okay. Barça have earned the right to have a night off and all that matters is watching them lift the trophy.